Football's press freedom grab - that dodgy accreditation agreement in detail

English Premier League football is already by far the richest sport in the UK. But not content to have huge amounts of our cash – it appears that the geniuses who run the national game also want to get their mucky hands on our press freedom too.

You’d think that securing accreditation for newspaper and agency journalists to cover Premier League and Championship football games would be a simple process.

The authorities let journalists come in and watch/photograph games. In return clubs and sponsors get free publicity.

And you’d think they would be happy for journalists to do all the things that modern journalists now routinely do: such as place live text and photo updates on their websites and blog and Tweet away, as well producing content for print editions.

But Football Dataco – the entity which controls accreditation for journalists wishing to cover games – does not see the world that way.

Apparently on the pretext that they want to protect lucrative broadcasting deals – they want journalists to sign away many of their rights and freedoms in exchange for having the opportunity to cover games.

Talks are said to be ongoing between the News Media Coalition (which represents most national newspapers and press agencies) and Football Dataco, with the start of the Premier League season just days away.

Both sides are being rather cagey about what the sticking points are in the accreditation agreement.

But the very fact that football bosses require journalists to sign a 17-page legal document simply to go and report on a game tells a story in itself.

If no deal is reached journalists are facing the prospect of being locked out of press boxes this weekend.

Press Gazette has had a look at the proposed agreement and here are what appear to be the most contentious sections:

“Photographs shall not be used or Published as Sequences of Stills”

Presumably because this would be just the same as watching the game on Sky!

Any New Media Service that contains Photograph(s) and/or Editorial Text Report(s) shall:

(a) not be structured, offered, titled, described or promoted as a ‘live’ or ‘near live’ service;

So football would become the one sporting event that journalists are not allowed to live blog – unless they are watching it on the TV. Bizarre.

During the applicable Match:

No Sequences of Stills may be used or Published; and

Following the conclusion of the applicable Match until 12 midnight immediately following the applicable Match (“1st Permitted Period”):

(b) Not more than ten (10) Sequences of Stills of a Match (each comprising not more than 6 still images in any consecutive period of 60 seconds with an interval of not less than 10 seconds between each still image) may be used or Published in any consecutive period of two hours; and

Following the 1st Permitted Period until seven (7) days after the applicable Match:

(c) One or more Sequences of Stills (each comprising not more than 6 still images in any consecutive period of 60 seconds with an interval of not less than 10 seconds between each still image) may be used or Published; and

Seven (7) days after the applicable Match:

(d) One or more Sequences of Stills may be used or Published. Such Sequences of Stills may consist of more than six (6) images.

Again, it’s hardly the same as watching it on Sky.

Subject to the payment of a reasonable handling fee, the Licensee shall permit and/or procure access to, sight of, or provide a print of, any Photograph promptly upon receipt of a written request from DataCo, either League or any Club.

Oh, and those photos effectively become the property of Football Dataco (subject to handling fee).

UPDATE:

Here in response to a comment I’ve uploaded the whole document to Google Docs so readers can draw their own conclusions on what it all means (I’m no lawyer so would be interested to hear if anyone has any expert insight).

The bits which I think are interesting are highlighted in yellow on pages 10,11,12 and 17.

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Football's press freedom grab – that dodgy accreditation agreement in detail

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